"A New York Treasure" --Village Voice

Monthly Archives: October 2010

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What’s in a Name?

Madison Bumgardner, 21-years old, branded the Texas Rangers tonight, but good, throwing eight shut-out innings.

Wait, who? That’s right, Madison Bumgarner. Believe it, folks, it was a thing of beauty.

The Giants won the game, 4-0, and now the Rangers look to Cliff Lee to save their season.

Biscuits n Gravy

Sunday Slather, Whirled Serious Style!

I’m pulling for the Giants but I think the Rangers will win again tonight.

Want to See Something Really Scary?

The Candy Man Can


or treat?

We Do This Every Day

So I was down on Broadway looking for a parking space this morning and I couldn’t find one so I had to drive around for a minute. Dig what I found…baseball in New York! The Yankees’ season might be over, but the Whirled Serious is cookin’ down in Texas, and the Kingsbridge Little League is still in full effect.

Ya heard?

Darkness Warshed Over the Dude…

The Rangers look to avoid going down 3-0 tonight in Texas. It says here that they get it done.

Let’s Go Base-Ball.

Beat of the Day

Mid-90s Underground Goodness…

Fresh Air

Chilly but sunny Saturday morning in the Big Apple.

Hope everyone is having a good one.

Whirled Serious continues tonightski…

[Picture by Bags]

The Nifty 850

A childhood favorite…

Friday Night Art

From Bay Area Legend, Elmer Bischoff…

Beat of the Day

Willie Bobo was from Harlem. He made a name for himself playing for Tito Puente and then, in San Francisco, with Cal Tjader and Mongo Santamaria.

Please to enjoy…

01 Grazing In The Grass

01 Spanish Grease

03 It’s Not Unusual

All Wet

My old man didn’t own any rock records. He had original cast recordings of Broadway shows. That was his thing, that’s what we heard around the house. My twin sister Sam really took to musicals. I liked some but never caught the bug.

I appreciate and admire the art form but I’m not much of a fan. Still, I read Paul Simon’s review of Stephen Sondheim’s new memoir (the first of two volumes), “Finishing the Hat,” with interest because I’m a nerd for guys talking shop.

This caught my eye:

“Finishing the Hat” — a fascinating compilation of lyrics, commentary and anecdotes, covering the years 1954 to 1981 — is essentially about process, the process of writing songs for theater. Performing acts of literary self-criticism can be a tricky business, akin to being one’s own dentist, but Sondheim’s analysis of his songs and those of others is both stinging and insightful. Nevertheless, he successfully avoids the traps of a self-inflated ego.

…Sondheim quotes the composer-lyricist Craig Carnelia: “True rhyming is a necessity in the theater, as a guide for the ear to know what it has just heard.” I have a similar thought regarding attention span and a listener’s need for time to digest a complicated line or visualize an unusual image. I try to leave a space after a difficult line — either silence or a lyrical cliché that gives the ear a chance to “catch up” with the song before the next thought arrives and the listener is lost.

Love this comment. It’s like knowing how to pace a laugh in a movie, how to let it breathe. Then, there’s this:

…I saw “West Side Story” when I was 16 years old, and I have two vivid memories of the show. One, I didn’t believe for a minute that the dancers were anything like the teenage hoods I knew from the street corner, and secondly, I was completely overwhelmed by the beauty of the song “Maria.” It was a perfect love song. Sondheim was less enamored with the lyric he wrote for Bernstein. He describes it as having a kind of “overall wetness” — “a wetness, I regret to say, which persists throughout all the romantic lyrics in the show.” Sondheim’s rule, taught to him by his mentor, Oscar Hammerstein II, is that the book and composer are better served by lyrics that are “plainer and flatter.” It is the music that is meant to lift words to the level of poetry.

Sondheim’s regret about “Maria” reminded me of my own reluctance to add a third verse to “Bridge Over Troubled Water.” I thought of the song as a simple two-verse hymn, but our producer argued that the song wanted to be bigger and more dramatic. I reluctantly agreed and wrote the “Sail on silvergirl” verse there in the recording studio. I never felt it truly belonged. Audiences disagreed with both Sondheim and me. “Maria” is beloved, and “Sail on silvergirl” is the well-known and highly anticipated third verse of “Bridge.” Sometimes it’s good to be “wet.”

Taster’s Cherce

I’m not a huge fan of root beer though I sure do love a root beer float.

Check out this root beer taste test over at Serious Eats.

Card Corner: The Wonderful Oscar Azocar

For too long, I used to think that Oscar Azocar epitomized the ineptitude of the Yankee teams of the early 1990s. A free swinger to the point of hapless extreme, Azocar struggled so much in trying to reach first base that I considered him synonymous with Yankee failure during that era. I felt bad about that continuing assessment this past June, when I learned that Azocar had died suddenly and unexpectedly from a heart attack at the age of 45. I only felt worse when I started to read about Azocar, learning more about a hustling ballplayer, a fun-loving teammate, and a delightful guy.

As a rookie for the Yankees in 1990, Azocar stepped up to the plate 218 times. Swinging the bat from a pronounced crouch, he offered at almost any pitch within the general proximity of the batter’s boxes. In one stretch, he came to bat seven consecutive times without taking a single pitch. Not one! By season’s end, Azocar had coaxed a grand total of two walks. For awhile, he had more sacrifice flies than walks, which resulted in his batting average being temporarily higher than his on-base percentage.

While it’s true that Azocar didn’t walk and didn’t hit with any tangible power, he did play the game with a level of passion not normally exhibited by staid and stolid major leaguers. When Azocar played left field, he made sure to involve himself, even when the ball was not hit in his direction. On a batted ball to another outfielder or infielder, Azocar would make a hellish dash toward third base, so that he would be in position to back up his third baseman on a possible overthrow. It didn’t matter if the chances of there being a play at third were infinitesimal; Azocar wanted to be there, just in case. Azocar did something similar when runners from first base attempted to steal second base. If the catcher’s throw tricked into center field, Azocar would back up third base in the event of a second overthrow.

Some of the veteran Yankees noticed Azocar’s habit of running furiously toward third base. Perhaps unwilling to face their own mediocrity as ballplayers, they poked fun at Azocar. A few Yankees asked Azocar why he did this. Looking a bit bewildered, Azocar thought for a moment and then replied in his heavy Venezuelan accent: “Because that’s what I’m supposed to do.” And, you know what, Azocar was right. He didn’t have anything else to do on the play, so he might as well put himself to use–just in case.

In addition to his perpetual hustle, Azocar exhibited other good habits on defense. He tracked fly balls well and usually hit the cutoff man with his throws. Best utilized as a left fielder, Azocar had enough speed to dabble in center field, at least on a fill-in basis. He could also handle right field, though his arm strength was something less extraordinary than that of Jesse Barfield. Or even an injured Dave Winfield.

Azocar could run the bases, too. Though hardly a blazer, Azocar knew how to read pitchers and steal bases. Over parts of three major league seasons, including a pair with the Padres, Azocar stole ten times without being caught, setting an unofficial major league record.

Still, there was much more to Azocar. He loved to smile. He smiled during games. He smiled and laughed in the dugout. He smiled before games. Azocar simply loved playing baseball, along with the experience of being around the ballpark. With his upbeat and enthusiastic approach, Azocar became a wonderful teammate. He was no Mel Hall, who spent much of his time sticking pins in Bernie Williams dolls. Azocar just seemed delighted to be hanging around a major league setting, spending time with players ranging from Don Mattingly to Bye-Bye Balboni to Bam-Bam Meulens.


Bronx Beauty

Here’s the Mrs. taking pictures for her Christmas collection.

The Art of Storytelling, Cont.

Roger Ebert gives us another loving tribute to his old friend, the great take-out writer, Bill Nack. If you’ve never read Nack’s book, “Secretariat: The Making of a Champion”, do yourself a favor–it’s a classic.

Two two chums got together recently and Nack told Ebert stories about perhaps the greatest champion of them all:

Here is Nack’s wonderful story, “Pure Heart,” on the death of Secretariat (Sports Illustrated, 1990):

Just before noon the horse was led haltingly into a van next to the stallion barn, and there a concentrated barbiturate was injected into his jugular. Forty-five seconds later there was a crash as the stallion collapsed. His body was trucked immediately to Lexington, Kentucky, where Dr. Thomas Swerczek, a professor of veterinary science at the University of Kentucky, performed the necropsy. All of the horse’s vital organs were normal in size except for the heart.

“We were all shocked,” Swerczek said. “I’ve seen and done thousands of autopsies on horses, and nothing I’d ever seen compared to it. The heart of the average horse weighs about nine pounds. This was almost twice the average size, and a third larger than any equine heart I’d ever seen. And it wasn’t pathologically enlarged. All the chambers and the valves were normal. It was just larger. I think it told us why he was able to do what he did.”

You Make the Call

Picking up on Emma’s challenge to make a call on Ron Washington, I called my old friend, known around these parts as Alan with the 45s. This is what he came up with:

Dude actually remembered this kitty photo from Life Magazine.

Even better, how about this.

The Belz!

Get the Papers, Get the Papers

Here’s your morning Yankee round-up:

At River Ave Blues, Mike Axisa covers the Joe Girardi deal while Ben Kabak notes that Leo Mazzone has interest in being the Yankees’ next pitching coach.

Over at Yankeeist, Mark Warden asks: Should they stay or should they go?

Jay Jaffe has a good, long post on Joba Chamberlain at the Pinstriped Bible, and Steve Goldman cautions to leave Cliff Lee alone (I’m with Steve on this one):

Even before last night’s Game 1 disappointment, I have been firmly convinced that the Yankees should not do what everyone expects them to do, and throw the gross domestic product of Luxembourg at the left-hander. In the last few years, Lee has become one of the great control artists of all time. And yet, he is also 31. He is at that same dangerous stage of life that so many other Yankees have reached, where the minor aches and pains of one’s 20s become the surgeries of one’s 30s. As with the A.J. Burnett contract, a Lee who is not in peak form will tie the team’s hands for years to come, soaking up dollars and a roster spot that would be better spent on the young.

…As in any casino game, when you bet on a pitcher, the odds are slanted in favor of the house. For teams with no other options, or a team geared up to win it all now and then sink back into the second division, giving a veteran starter a lot of money for too many years is a reasonable plan. That’s what the Mets did with Pedro Martinez, paying for four years when there was only a reasonable expectation that they might get two. In the event, they got one. Cliff Lee is younger than Martinez, and perhaps he’s a better bet health-wise, but there is no way to know for certain. The Yankees have choices, some of whom will be viable big leaguers three years from now, when whichever team signs Lee is trying to figure out the best way to get rid of him. The Yankees aren’t in that position. They have alternatives, choices they’ve spent good money on. Now is the time to test them and find the next Cliff Lee, or even the next Andy Pettitte. He could be lurking somewhere in the pile, and he won’t cost a fraction of what Lee does. If the Yankees leave Lee to others, they might even get to find out who he is.

The Jernt is Jumpin’

And it’s up the Rangers to stop the party. Dudes smoking the reefers in the bleachers, the entire city poppin’.

Giants look to make more memories while the Texans aim to go home even.

I’m still blacked out but I’ve got it on the radio, so forget the Fat Cat Schmucks and:

Let’s Go Base-Ball.

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"This ain't football. We do this every day."
--Earl Weaver